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Online dating: Everybody’s doing it. A recent Pew survey found that 41 percent of Americans know someone who uses online dating to meet people, and nearly 30 percent know someone who met a long-term significant other on a dating site or app. Even the older crowd is getting into it: In 2015, 12 percent of adults aged 55 to 64 used online dating sites, compared with just 6 percent in 2013.
So nobody—or rather, nobody important—is judging you for joining eHarmony or browsing OkCupid. But online dating apps are a slightly different story. The swipe-right-for-sex mechanism almost seems too easy, and as a result these apps still have a rep for promoting hookup culture over real relationships. So what do you tell people if you happen to swipe into true love?
You could try telling them the truth, though that might lead to an awkward conversation with your ultra-conservative grandmother. But you don’t have to. Making up a fun, fake story to tell people about how you met is a pretty harmless white lie, assuming you go about it the right way. “You want a story with longevity,” says psychologist and relationship expert Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. “It needs to be something you can imagine telling people five, ten, twenty years from now. And you should be able to have fun with it—and with each other—while you’re telling it.” I mean, what’s the point of rewriting history if you can’t make it interesting?
If creativity isn’t your thing, here are some ideas to get you started.
“We met online.”
It makes no sense, but meeting online is fine while meeting on Tinder will raise some eyebrows. But telling people you met on an online dating site—rather than an app—will let you tell the whole story (how her blurry selfies totally captivated you, how you texted her the nerdiest—and wittiest—pickup line in the history of the universe) without any of the hookup-app judgment. After all, more than one third of marriages begin online these days.
“We met through a friend.”
Meeting through a mutual friend is the tried-and-true story of fake online dating cover stories, according to matchmaker Michelle Frankel of NYCity Matchmaking. “The ‘friend’ is your online dating app of choice, and the story is common and vague enough that it doesn’t immediately stand out as a lie,” Frankel explains. Plus, if you meet on an app like Hinge, which is similar to Tinder, but it uses your Facebook connections to match you up with friends-of-friends, it’s technically true.
“We met at [place where we had our first date].”
The first time you saw your girlfriend in digital form was when you swiped right on her adorable sundress pic…but the first time you saw her in real life was probably when you met her for coffee, or drinks, or dinner. So this isn’t really a lie, it’s just manipulating the timeline. Plus, it encourages you to come up with creative first dates, since “we met at a parkour gym” is much cooler than “we met at Starbucks.”
“We met on an online forum/non-dating website.”
People who have issues with online dating usually don’t have issues with the Internet in general. Any place interaction takes place online—including Facebook, Reddit, the Buzzfeed comment section, etc.—will placate someone with an outdated view of online dating without forcing you to take the online component out of it completely.
“We met doing [shared interest].”
You’re dating, so you probably have some interests in common. Pick something you love—like hiking, volunteering, CrossFit, you name it—and make it your story. Make sure it’s an activity you’ve actually done together, and the cover will be foolproof (you can even tell people the story of how you rescued her from a rattlesnake, aka twig, on your gorgeous mountain hike.)
“We met on Tinder.”
No shame! If, for some reason, people are uncomfortable with the idea that you met your amazing girlfriend on a hookup app, that just reflects on them, not you, says sexologist and relationship expert Claudia Six. “We should all be so lucky to find a good relationship,” Six says. “Own it!”